BFI Flare 2021 ‘Dramarama’ Review: Whacky but with a Good Heart

Gene (Nick Pugliese) wants to come out to his friends at their last murder mystery meeting. He’s given pause by his friends’ conservative Christian attitudes and the intervention of a cynical friend who successfully spoils their fun. As the game ends real drama emerges between them, testing their friendship.

Dramarama is a teen comedy and the comedy is not going to be for everyone. Nor are the teens. It’s very exaggerated with over the top performance and the oft lamented but still overused quirky comedy music. It’s just trying too hard and the effect is a blurring of the line between the production of the film and the interactions of the friends, both of which feel immature. The dialogue is artificial and amateur, particularly once they start discussing popular culture. It feels overcooked.

The film is at it’s best when it gets real. When the characters actually talk to each other about their concerns and hopes they actually seem like real people whose drama is worth experiencing. It is, after all, an interesting premise. A friend wishes to come out to his young conservative friends. It’s different than the typical coming-out narrative that often presents the old as oppressors and the young as supportive co-conspirators.

The history between the friends both prohibits honesty and ensures they will never fully fall part. There’s a web of grievances that connects them to each other as strongly as their fondness for each other. They play rough with each others feelings, treating everything as a game, creating an atmosphere in which anything can be dismissed and it’s impossible to really talk without melodrama. This aspect of the film was very believable.

Each of the friends are about to leave this bubble and experience the real world. Consequently they are, each of them, afraid. Though they’ve all outgrown each other they are terrifying of what lies over the horizon; potential failure, the burden of responsibility and a whole world of people who may not accept them. There’s comfort to be found in the familiarity the friends have with each other but it’s waning as the friendship is increasingly supported by denial and deception.

Aspects of Dramarama feel inauthentic. This is a shame because when it’s being real it’s an interesting story from a perspective that’s underseen. The conservative characters are not villains here, they’re just inexperienced. Yet the artificially of the films humour interestingly serves its own purpose. As every interaction becomes swallowed up by the script, the opportunities for real communication disappear. It’s a heartbreak that’s very familiar. Sometimes the hardest people to actually speak with are your closest friends.

Three Stars

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